Lyn Elliott's Reviews > Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
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Aug 12, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: historical-fiction, favorites
Read in July, 2012

Mantel's writing in Bring up the Bodies is brilliant. The main thread of the story, the fall of Anne Boleyn, is well known to anyone with even a passing interest in Tudor history or royal scandals. But Mantel shifts the story into new territory through her use of Thomas Cromwell as the storyteller.
Cromwell's eyes are the eyes through which we observe what is happening, Cromwell's is the brain that runs furiously to assess what King Henry wants and how to get it for him. The ears and voice are Cromwell's. Mantel uses the third person 'he' to describe Cromwell throughout this book as she did in its predecessor, Wolf Hall. But this 'he' is the person Cromwell; observing the world around him acutely, aware of the way he is living his life and making his choices for the king.
From the start, a palpable sense of menace is conveyed through dialogue, picking up power plays, resentments, alliances. Although the main threat in this volume circles around Anne Boleyn, we can hear the threats to Cromwell rising too, from the first malicious humiliations delivered by young courtiers to Cromwell to almost the last moment of the book, when Cromwell is left almost breathless with shock at what one of his household has said to him - which I won't reveal.
Anne and the malicious young courtiers have all gone to the block by the end of the book.
Cromwell only wants to do what his king wants, and what he (Cromwell) thinks is for the good of his beloved England. But the consequences of the bargain, of Cromwell's access to this huge power, have Faustian consequences. No doubt they will be fully revealed in volume 3 - but the feathers are already in the wind.

This was a great read, and made me want to go back to re-read Wolf Hall.

August 2014: I have just re-read Bring up the Bodies for the book club and again it held me riveted all the way.
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